Wellness programs in the workplace and the elements of their success
Nearly 95 percent of large US companies offer workplace wellness programs with a focus on improving health among a population. Today, most wellness programs focus on improving health engagement among a population. For example, employees can submit to a biometric screening and in turn pay less for health insurance. Or, attend a seminar and receive points towards rewards. The key to a program’s success is a focus on employee engagement rather than return on investment, laying the foundation for a long-term wellness approach sustained through interest and participation.
Once participation has increased and the program is running successfully, employers can begin to shift its focus toward results. Outcomes-based incentives, which can drive a wellness program in any number of directions, take wellness a step further to improve the workplace atmosphere and manage healthcare costs of the employer. Examples include programs that drive compliance with diabetes medications, motivate employees to reach or maintain a healthy BMI, or promote tobacco cessation.
Outcomes-based programs, although complex, are more suitable to companies that desire meaningful and measurable results. For the program to be successful it must meet the employees’ interests and goals. Claim data, initiatives, incentives and penalties must be presented to the company as a whole before the program can kick off. Biometric screenings and health-risk assessments must be taken in order to give each employee a score, or baseline, that they’ll actively seek to improve upon. Although these programs tend to be more expensive and time consuming up front, they have proven to increase productivity and reduce costs in medical and leave claims over the long term.
When considering outcomes-based wellness programs, it is important to also keep in mind three primary laws that come into play: the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). Building a program around these laws ensures that engagement incentives can be achieved by all employees regardless of circumstance.
WGA’s Engage in Health approach has worked through the various issues regarding outcomes-based incentives with a few leading-edge clients. We can recommend successful vendors that can administer a program and deliver results. We believe that this approach, given client commitment and involvement, will drive results and succeed.
About the Author
Katie Misata is a Client Service Associate at WGA in the Employee Benefits and Retirement Services Group, supporting her client service needs. She also serves as a WGA Engage in Health Advisor, specializing in client health engagement and working with WGA clients to implement and manage their wellness programs.